Building capacity to help Africa trade better

World prices for agricultural goods will “remain flat or decline in the next ten years”


World prices for agricultural goods will “remain flat or decline in the next ten years”

World prices for agricultural goods will “remain flat or decline in the next ten years”
Photo credit: Desmond Kwande | FAO

The current growth in agricultural production, especially in Africa, could mean that in the next ten years world prices for food will remain flat or even decline, according to a session devoted to agriculture at the Public Forum on 1 October. Food security, agricultural subsidies and the participation of farmers in global value chains were also discussed.

Two sessions organized by the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), the Centre for Equity Studies of India, and COAST of Bangladesh covered questions on how trade rules can be reformed to address the growing concern of small-scale producers about the “right to food”. It was noted that agricultural production has been growing, especially in Africa, and because of that, world prices for agricultural goods will either remain flat or decline in the next ten years.

Agriculture is a mainstay of the African economy and the sector faces many challenges. Participants explained the importance of public stockholding and the National Food Security Act in India, emphasizing that the objective of the programme is to support domestic consumers, not exports. They called for the WTO to consider such support as “non-trade distorting”, as put forward in the proposal by the G33 group of developing countries. Participants also expressed hopes that agricultural subsidies and the safeguard mechanism will be included in the forthcoming Nairobi Ministerial Conference.

Another session on agriculture, organized by the World Farmers' Organization, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), discussed how trade policies can bridge the gap between farm and market. Farmers’ representatives stressed that farmers’ voices need to be heard when agricultural standards are set. “We should seek solutions to drive farms as businesses,” they said. “We need to discuss how to improve efficiency for farmers and how we can reach out to farmers so that they have the capacity to implement multiple standards”. The OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2015-24 highlights the decline in long-term real prices, the increase in trade volumes of most products, and changes in consumer demands. To face these challenges, the emphasis needs to be on the farmer to bridge the gap between food security and farmer security, trade policy and agricultural policy, participants at the session noted.

A session organized by the Institute of Developing Economies of the Japan External Trade Organization discussed the Asian perspective on how to plug into global agricultural value chains. It was noted that agriculture is an important sector for development in Asia. Yet the agricultural sector faces many challenges when exporting products, especially concerning the rejection of some products based on misinformation in labelling, bacterial contamination or issue of excessive or dangerous additives. China, Indonesia, Thailand and Viet Nam are some of the countries facing these problems. Participants at the session noted that Asian countries should promote agri-food exports in order to foster economic development, while at the same time they need to comply with standards in order to participate in global value chains.

A workshop on “Navigating the relationship between food security policy measures and trade rules: an interactive policy tool” invited Public Forum participants to explore and give feedback on a food security policy tool developed by the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO). The tool is an interactive, mobile app and web-based programme that analyses over 60 food security policy measures. The purpose of the tool is to make it easier for small-scale farmers, trade policy makers and negotiators to have access to information on how policy measures have an impact on food security.


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